At the crack of dawn, around 80 young men and women began their journey from the city to the Hunua Ranges for their annual servant leadership retreat. Those who attended included the student leaders from 14 Catholic High Schools in Auckland, Ignite Team, (Tertiary Student Leaders), Vinnies Youth Team and session facilitators.
There were moments of challenge and laughter as the students learnt how to work together towards a common goal. The seemingly simple task of getting from one side of the field to the other while bound to one another proved both hilarious and deeply insightful to behold. There were moments of awe as they poured over the stories of those who founded the Society: and how in many ways, the stories of the founders were intertwined with those of themselves’. Lastly, there were moments of reflection. The retreat provided an opportunity for each attendee to think about their place in the Society of St Vincent de Paul story. They thought about the many service projects they had or will commit to, and further, the many lives they would touch as a result of it. With a stronger sense of community and belonging, these young men and women now hope to put their many teachings into action.
Home: What Does it Mean?
Throughout the year, student groups that are part of the Vinnies Youth Programme receive regular formation sessions. These often take the form of mini “workshops” that seek to unpack a specific social issue within the community. Marcellin College Vinnies recently chose to explore the notion of Homelessness, so as to better inform their upcoming service projects. It was a confronting exercise. Through testimony and looking at some general statistics, they gained a deeper insight into what it means to have no place to call home. The process of developing empathy and an appreciation for the many factors that contribute to homelessness proved fruitful regardless of whether they had been exposed to it or not. Students who attended this workshop responded saying, “It was confronting, honest and eye-opening.” With a stronger sense of knowledge around the topic, these young men and women seek to better informed decisions as they form their respective service projects.
Learning Through Service
Each year, the students of St Peter’s College take part in a retreat which seeks to create a sense of community both within the student body and the families around them. Those who attend learn more about themselves and the many lines of support they have access to. Conversely, they also learn about what it is like when those lines of support are not present. To bring these learnings to the forefront of their minds, the students are invited to run a small can drive within their community. The resultant was over 3,600 canned goods being collected. These non-perishable food items were then collected by the Society of St Vincent de Paul and later distributed to foodbanks across Auckland.
Bringing Families Together over Easter
At the conclusion of their can drive earlier in the year, the students wished to support families with children over the Easter period. Knowing very well the excitement of Easter eggs and treats that often accompany the Lenten season, these young women proceeded to make sure that as many children as possible shared the same excitement that they did at a younger age. The proceeds of their collection went towards families who came through the Vinnies Centre for a foodparcel.
Stations of the Cross
True to the Christian tradition, every year on Good Friday Catholic parishes throughout Auckland and the rest of New Zealand commemorate the re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross. It is a Prayerful meditation through the twelve Stations in remembrance of Christ’s Crucifixion.
During this year’s Good Friday, Vinnies both young and old took part in their local parish proceedings as well as the the Stations of the Cross held in the Auckland CBD which was hosted by Fr Chris Denham and the staff of the Auckland Catholic Tertiary Chaplaincy staff based at the Unversity of Auckland.
Over two thousand Catholic’s came together at Albert Park to start processing throughout the city.The Young Vinnies were called upon to assist with the fifth station where Simon of Cyrene helped carry Jesus’s cross.
This celebration was beautifully led by Fr Chris Denham and the many youth groups that were invited to take part.
For a video of this commemoration, click on the below link.
Video credit: Simple Press Studios